Flipflops and tank tops, sockless in sandals…

and dying in Mexico

by Russ Hilderley

USA AND CANADIAN expats face a small mountain of paperwork should someone close to them die in Mexico. An even higher mountain of forms, certified translations, lists of possessions, is forced on loved ones left behind, should the deceased not have any type of ” Last Will and Testament.”

In 2019, 50,000 Canadians were living in Mexico. 182 died. 75% were from natural causes which likely does not include “seasoned” expats sidestepping sidewalk “cenotes”, tripping over abandonned building materials or struck by vehicular traffic while navigating uneven walkways and driveway indentations.

It would seem pedestrians are trampling on private sidewalks originally built by the abutting landholders, but never maintained by them. Uneven heights, slopes, broken curbs and the like can reak havoc on retirees who fly here and walk everywhere thereafter.

Two and a half million Canadians visited Mexico as tourists last year. A significant percentage are in the autumn years of their lives. They may be in Yucatan for six weeks or six months, to escape the colder climate “up north”! Snowbirds(as Canadians and residents from the northern U.S. are called) have an inherent duty to their families “back home”! All expats and tourists alike would be well advised to make it easier to cope, upon the death of a loved one. Important and critical personal information about the deceased must be available to the Mexican authorities from day one. Regardless of your country of origin, the burden is essentially the same.

The whole procedure following the death of an expat residing or visiting Mexico can be daunting for next of kin. The deceased’s identity must be thoroughly established in accordance with Mexican laws.

If the name on the birth certificate is even slightly different from their passport, the transition from one name to another MUST be explained and vertified accordingly. It is particularly cumbersome, should the deceased be a woman. Her birth name could be different through one or more marriages. In each step,the documentation will require translation to “Español” by a registered and authorized translator. The same rules apply to ALL documentation required. “The Last Will”, the identification of all possessions with current valuation held in Mexico by the deceased and the name(s) of next of kin who should be notified, must all be translated in to Spanish .

Expats are urged to maintain a special file back home, or here in Yucatan or Mexico. A designated family member or friend should be aware of this file and where it is stored. The”paperwork” could already be translated and certified. The “executor” of the expat’s estate should be identified with all neccessary contact information tucked away with the deceased passport .

Representatives from the Canadian Consulate in Cancun and similarly designated personnel from the USA Consulate in Merida, appeared before an overflow crowd of over 150 expats at Flamingos Restaurant on the Malecon in Progreso, last Tuesday January 14th,2020.

A funeral home in the Yucatan, is a primary step, to walk you through the process. Cremated remains can be exported within a day or two. A casket requires one or more weeks . The Funeral Director can not forward any valuables such as rings and other jewellry, computers etc..These must be claimed by the contact identified in the Will, or otherwise verifiable family.

Expats living in Yucatan as “Temporary or Permanent” residents should have the LONGFORM marriage certificate which is normally not issued but available in the State or Province where the marriage was performed. This document and your birth certificate should be carried with you as you travel.

Most travellers are optimistic and excited about spending their vacations and retirement without giving much thought to the consequences if they die abroad. Sure,they may have medical and life insurance but forget all the details and information required to repatriate their remains.

To use the now famous phrase quoting reknowned Woody Allen,when asked what would happen to his fortune when he dies, he replied: “If I can’t take it with me, I’m not going” !

We all wish it was that simple!

Complete Article HERE!

James Blunt breaks down in powerful music video starring dying father:

‘We’re just two grown men saying goodbye’

James Blunt with his father, Charles Blount.

British singer-songwriter James Blunt is best known for his sentimental heartbreak ballads “You’re Beautiful” and “Goodbye My Lover,” but his latest single “Monsters,” a tribute to his ailing father, is his rawest and most poignant yet.

In his devastating new “Monsters” music video, an anguished Blunt, in an extreme close-up reminiscent of Sinead O’Connor’s iconic, one-take “Nothing Compares 2 U” clip, stares down the lens, his eyes welling up with tears, as he sings: “I’m not your son, you’re not my father/We’re just two grown men saying goodbye… So Daddy, won’t you just close your eyes?/Don’t be afraid, it’s my turn/To chase the monsters away.”

Blunt struggles to maintain his composure throughout the first half of video, so much much so that it’s almost uncomfortable to witness. And when the camera finally cuts to a wider shot, it becomes clear why he is so distraught, that he isn’t acting, and that his tears are very real. Sitting stoically beside him is his real-life dad, former cavalry officer Colonel Charles Blount, who is battling stage 4 chronic kidney disease.

Last year on Good Morning Britain, Blunt spoke of his father’s serious illness and made a plea to possible organ donors, saying: “I’ve come on here to ask you what blood group you are. Some things have been going on in my life that I needed to write about. My father has not been very well, actually. He needs a new kidney and a kidney donor. And I’ve come on here to ask you what blood group you are. If you are an O-positive, I’ll take it off you.” (Blunt revealed that, sadly, he is not a match.)

On the same U.K. morning program, Blunt spoke of the experience of writing “Monsters” after learning of his father’s kidney disease, explaining: “Really that has been an amazing moment, because when you realize your father’s mortality, it’s a great opportunity to say the things I’d like to say to him.”

Fans, particularly those who have lost a parent or who are preparing to say goodbye to a sick parent, have taken to social media to praise the touching video, which went viral after William Shatner tweeted it to his 2.5 million followers.

Complete Article HERE!

Startups Are Dying To Give You A Better Death

By Anes Alic

“Ashes to ashes, dust to dust,” no longer.

This phrase, generally used during burial ceremonies, suggests that every life will one day come to an end. Today, the flurry of startups businesses seeking to change timeless traditions is challenging even this. Now, one can obtain eternal life by becoming compost witnessing rebirth as a tree.

Traditional funerals, in the form of cremation, embalming and burial, are now giving way to new alternatives with the emergence of new funeral startups that aim to disrupt the overpriced services sector by offering something cheaper and better.

The market they are targeting is sizable. With nearly 2.6 million deaths every year in the United States, a new class of entrepreneur sees plenty of opportunity to innovate.

Considering the fact that 41.4 million Americans live below the poverty line and that 40 percent of US citizens cannot afford an unexpected expense of just $400, it is clear that a majority of Americans would be unable to absorb the average cost of a funeral, which sits at around $8000.

Due to the nature of the business (that everyone is bound to use the service at some point) it was long believed that nothing could jeopardize the funeral industry. Yet, due to the high cost and availability of cheaper alternatives, it seems that all sectors of the industry have been reporting losses over the past decade.

Currently, the coffins and caskets market is worth some $550 million, but that belies an annual decline rate of 3.6% over the last five years. That rate is expected to accelerate to about 4.1% in the next five years. Skilled embalmers have been particularly hard hit, with employment in that profession declining 28% in less than 10 years.

Back in 2015, cremation surpassed traditional burial rates across the country for the first time, largely because of consumer attempts to reduce costs associated with funerals.

However, for environmentally conscious Millennials, even cremation is out of the question because the process emits some 270,000 tons of carbon dioxide each year. That is equivalent to the CO2 from 22,000 homes, or the emissions of 50,000 cars.

Millennials, as tech-savvy and environmentally conscious consumers, are driving the popularization of “green burials”, which are both affordable and involve fewer synthetic chemicals.

Green burials cost an average of $2,000, which includes a plot and environmentally friendly casket. For those who desire even more eco- and wallet-friendly solutions, there is an option to ditch the tombstone and chose a GPS marker instead.

Composting is also on the rise as a unique way for one to give back to the planet more directly. The process involves sealing a body into a container with wood chips, alfalfa and hay and adding heat to stimulate microbial munching.

There are still a few legal issues to be resolved around the compost funeral, but the world’s first funeral home dedicated to composting human beings is set to open in 2021 in the state of Washington, the first state to legalize such services last year.

An even newer trend is the “tree burial” during which ashes are placed in the soil with a seed to plant a tree that won’t affect the tree’s natural DNA.

There are also green burial options that aren’t wallet-friendly, and far surpass the traditional funeral costs. One such option is the space burial in which ashes are launched into space via a rocket.

And how about Cryonics? At a cost of a minimum of tens of thousands of dollars, a handful of companies are willing to preserve a body in the hope that one day the technology will exist to bring the deceased back to life.

The funeral industry though it was immortal. It’s not. Today’s consumers, even beyond the grave, want options and startups are more than willing to give them those options.

Complete Article HERE!

Breathing New Life Into Death

5 Tech Companies From Female Founders Making Sure No One Grieves Alone

by

There’s a movement afoot, and as the new Broadway Beetlejuice show suggests; it’s all about death. From Death Cafes and Death Over Dinner, to the surge in new Netflix shows like Dead To Me and After Life, new life is pouring into old conversations about death. After decades kept firmly backstage, people are talking about death and grief, and bringing difficult conversations into the limelight.

Until now, the typical North American death-phobic response we have upon hearing of someone’s loss is reduced to a quick, “I’m sorry for your loss,” on Facebook. We may send flowers, or a card, but these often feel like empty gestures that do little to really support anyone. Most people who have just lost someone they love are in very real need of help, and fast. Traditional supports seem antiquated, expensive, and worse – impersonal.

Fortunately, help is here. In Baltimore, Chicago, New York, and Seattle, a group of female founders are on a mission to revolutionize death care and make sure no one grieves alone. Motivated by their own experiences with death, these women have created easy-to-use, thoughtful tools to help people navigate loss. Of course, death sucks, any way you look at it. No online tool can bring our loved ones back. But these women are working hard to normalize conversations about death, and make it easier – much easier – for people to help each other through grief.

First, meet Brooklyn-based Liz Eddy and Alyssa Ruderman, who co-founded Lantern to provide people with step-by-step guidance on how to navigate their lives before and after a death. When Liz’s Grandma died, she turned to Google in search of answers to her myriad questions about everything from funeral planning to closing accounts. What she found was a morass of unwieldy content, and none of the hand-holding she was looking for. So, Liz and Alyssa created Lantern, as a single source of guidance and information for end of life and death planning. It’s free to use their custom checklists and get help making your loved one’s funeral or celebration of life, everything you want it to be. I love that Lantern makes people feel empowered at a time in their lives when control is hard to come by.

Once you’ve survived the funeral, the daunting realities of grief come tumbling down. Litsa Williams and Eleanor Haley co-founded What’s Your Grief after they each lost a parent. Based in Baltimore, Litsa and Eleanor have built an incredible suite of practical and specific content and resources to help grieving people find a path forward. With their focus on education, exploration and expression, What’s Your Grief offers articles as well as affordable online courses on topics ranging from how to sort through a loved one’s belongings or develop strategies for surviving the holidays while grieving.

If you’re looking for ongoing grief support, Seattle-based Grief Coach sends personalized text messages all year long, based on your loss. And if you have friends and family who want to help, but aren’t sure how, they’ll receive tips and reminders too. Everyone’s messages will be customized based on things like cause of death, age, and your relationship to the person who has died.

I was inspired to create Grief Coach after the death of my husband and (a decade later) his best friend. After delivering the eulogy at my friend’s funeral, I was overwhelmed by the countless friends and family members who wanted to apologize for not having been there for me when my husband died. They were afraid, they said, and just didn’t know what to do. I created Grief Coach to answer the question of “I want to help, but don’t know how,” so that no-one would have to grieve alone.

Also in Seattle is Laura Malcolm, who founded Give InKind after losing her daughter. Laura had people around her who she knew wanted to help, but instead found herself in a room literally overflowing with flowers with no idea what to ask for, but a long list of things she wasn’t able to cope with on her own.

Give InKind brings together care calendars, fundraising, and wishlists. If you’re looking for a way to coordinate support, raise money for funeral expenses, and make it easy for friends and family to support you after a loss, GiveInKind is a great place to start. It’s free to create a page, and from there you can invite others to join and contribute.

And finally meet Ali Briggs and Rachele Louis in Chicago, who founded LifeWeb 360 after a friend’s brother died unexpectedly. As the years passed, Ali’s friend saw people’s memories of his brother fading away. He was worried that he couldn’t remember the sound of his brother’s voice anymore. LifeWeb 360 is a multimedia scrapbook that makes it easy for people to join together to collect and share memories that are then stored and shared online.

These eight women have created five valuable tools that recognize the power friends & family have to make a difference, after a loss.

LA mortician, Caitlyn Doughty, captures the no-nonsense spirit of these founders best, reminding us that; yes, there’s a movement afoot – but we don’t want to be a movement. Death is part of life, and what we really want is to normalize difficult conversations and bring death & dying into our day-to-day lives.

With founders like these women taking the reins, I have no doubt that we’re moving quickly towards a world where everyone has the help they need, after a death.

Complete Article HERE!

Between life and death:

What a neurologist learned when his brother-in-law fell into a coma

In neurology, there’s a “middle ground” between life and death that providers and patients’ family members alike struggle to navigate—but a new subspecialty could help improve communication around patients’ care, Joseph Stern, a neurologist who’s found himself on both the provider and family side of these difficult brain injuries, writes for the New York Times‘ “Well.”

A family member’s aneurysm leads to difficult decisions

Two years ago, Stern’s brother-in-law, Pat, collapsed with a brain hemorrhage from a ruptured cerebral aneurysm and was taken to UCLA Medical Center. Stern, as Pat’s legally designated health care power of attorney, gave permission for Pat to undergo a “surgical clipping of his ruptured aneurysm” and flew to California to oversee the rest of Pat’s care and communicate those care decisions with Pat’s family.

“Technically, surgery went well,” Stern writes. “But Pat never regained consciousness.” While Pat wasn’t brain-dead, “he remained deeply comatose,” Stern writes.

This, Stern writes, left Pat in a complicated, but all too common, “middle ground” in medicine: he’d experienced a “neurologically devastating injury without brain death.”

In these cases, Stern writes, care-related “decisions can be more difficult” for both family members and providers to know when to stop life-sustaining care. While brain death “is stark and final,” Stern writes that patients with severe neurological injuries who are not brain dead can survive on life-sustaining supports though in many cases they may never wake again.

Stern and Pat’s neurosurgeon, Gregory Lekovic, decided to give Pat a week to improve, and if he didn’t, Lekovic advised the family not pursue more aggressive measures, such as a tracheostomy and G-tube placement. “Lekovic and I worried it would be difficult to back off after those procedures had occurred,” Stern writes.

Pat didn’t neurologically improve after a week, and it was likely that he “would never regain consciousness,” Stern writes.

Stern and Pat’s family had decided to stop treatment, but on the morning they planned to do so one of the neuro-ICU specialists gave them reason to pause. “[O]ne of the neuro-ICU specialists presented a scenario in which Pat might wake up, become able to walk with assistance, and participate with his family,” Stern writes. However, “When pressed, the doctor admitted he was giving us the best possible outcome, rather than the most likely outcome,” Stern writes.

Stern and the family consulted again with Pat’s neurosurgeon, Lekovic, who said if it were his loved one, he’d “make the decision to end treatment,” Stern writes. According to Stern, Lekovic “seemed genuinely sad” saying this.

The importance of empathy and connection

“Doctors often think it is most important to be precise and not make mistakes; to predict the future with medical certainty,” Stern writes. “In my experience, connection and empathy are far more important than certainty. Patients and families want to know that you care about them and that you appreciate their pain in difficult circumstances.”

To help guide families and caregivers through this complicated medical condition, Stern notes that a new field, called neuropalliative care, has emerged. In neuropalliative care, providers “focus ‘on outcomes important to patients and families’ … ‘to guide and support patients and families through complex choices involving immense uncertainty and intensely important outcomes of mind and body.'”

Health care providers shouldn’t “focus on the short-term or allow care to be driven by procedures, losing sight of outcome and quality of life,” Stern writes. “We need to approach our patients and their families with open hearts, acknowledging their suffering and the uncertainty we all experience.”

In the case of Pat, Stern explains that his family, particularly Pat’s sons, “appreciated the truth when I explained their father’s prognosis.” Of course, the sons were “devastated at the prospect of losing him,” Stern writes, but “honesty and inclusion in decision-making were important in helping them move forward with their lives”

Complete Article HERE!

Do doctors grieve differently?

After Dr Alison Edwards’ soulmate died, grief took hold. Who else, she wondered, knew what this was like?

Dr Alison Edwards set up the website, Doc Grief, following the death of her partner Mick 15 years ago.

By Doug Hendrie

‘We really need to talk more about death … it is an inevitable part of life, and yet we shroud it in euphemism, hushed secrecy, and denial. We often grieve alone with little sense of shared understanding as we sanitise our emotions and somehow carry on.’

That is how South Australian GP Dr Alison Edwards began a talk she gave to her local palliative care team. And it is why she set up a website, Doc Grief, dedicated to supporting doctors who have lost loved ones.

That is what she wished existed when she lost her ‘soulmate’ Mick to a sudden cardiac arrest 15 years ago.

Dr Edwards’ own path of grief has shown her that doctors often grieve differently – and that the professional distance necessary to deal with death at work simply does not cope with personal grief.

‘I felt the need to know others had walked a similar path and survived, and to maybe find some tips about how best to achieve this,’ she told newsGP.

‘I wanted to read a story that was a close match to mine, but found very little in print about doctors grieving. So some years later I felt drawn to create such a site for others.’

Writing on her site, Dr Edwards tells the story of her loss:

Mick was the local footy legend, the cheeky butcher with a sparkle in his eyes. After 38 years of thinking life for me was destined not to be one of a long-term couple, it was really nice to have someone to love and be loved by and even see myself growing old with.

Mick had spent the afternoon out with the kids and had had a couple of beers down the pub while I was in at work. He was in one of his favourite positions – lying on the lounge channel-surfing. And then Mick had a cardiac arrest and died. No warning. No clues. Just chatting with me one minute about the perfume the kids had given me for Christmas and next minute making funny breathing noises as if he didn’t like the perfume.

Mick died, and the world as I knew it crashed down around me.

Mick was just 37.

In the immediate aftermath, Dr Edwards’ small community – Port Broughton on SA’s Yorke Peninsula – reached out. That, she found, was supportive and challenging.

‘It meant having to share my grief with the town. There was no opportunity to return to work and not have everyone wanting to express condolences,’ she said. ‘I couldn’t turn around without finding more scones, lasagnes and soup.

‘People want to do something physical, which is beautiful, but you also can’t be anonymous. In an urban practice, you could sneak back and your patients would necessarily know. Here, everyone knew.’

Dr Edwards took several months off following Mick’s death. When she returned to work, she printed little cards for her patients to read ahead of consultations.

The cards stated that Dr Edwards was doing okay and asked patients to treat it as a normal professional consultation.

‘No one could stick to it. I gave up,’ she explained. ‘Patients felt rude not to express their condolences.

‘The first time you see everyone, they feel the need to go through it. It made things a little bit harder.’

Since she set up the site, many GPs have told Dr Edwards that it has been helpful. Some have written to her seeking support. Others have contributed their own stories of grieving.

‘Reaching out to those with lived experience can be very supportive,’ she said.

‘I’ve had people write saying thank you so much for setting this up. Just knowing that someone else had lived the experience while having a broader understanding of the health system [is helpful].

‘Doctors do get the idea that random stuff happens. In the community, there’s often the expectation that we can fix everything, but doctors understand that things are unpredictable.

‘People do randomly have cardiac arrests and die.’

Dr Edwards believes doctors grieve differently, due to their familiarity with death and learned ability to maintain professional distance.

‘Knowing death so intimately may falsely lead us to think we are acquainted with grief, but when it comes to losing a loved one all bets are off,’ she wrote in a KevinMD article.

Dr Edwards believes that the stereotypical doctor personality traits – high achievers able to hide their emotions and focused on control – can pose particular challenges, as grief and loss are entirely uncontrollable.

‘Doctors spend most of their time observing … [but] unless we have loved in a dispassionate, dissociated way, we do not give our grief a fair chance if we do not live it,’ she wrote.

Dr Edwards’ grief was ‘very raw’ for the first few years. Over time, it gradually changed.

‘I went from feeling it with every breath and as if it was sitting right in front of me, to a place of living with it rather than living for it,’ she told newsGP.

But she still misses the shared life that could have been, writing:

I still love him and what he gave me. And I miss the future we didn’t get to share … I think I have a more profound sense of living life to my fullest capacity and valuing what I do have.

I have coped by taking one day at a time, allowing time to soften the impact and create new memories.’

There are no shortcuts and no way of bypassing the process of healing after a broken heart.

There are no right ways of grieving. Whatever you find works for you is probably the best for you. This is unlikely to be booze, drugs or running away but you may need to try this for yourself for a while before you believe it. There is no standard timeline. You do not get over it, you do not move on as if it could be left behind. But you do learn to live with it rather than be consumed by it.

Increasingly, Dr Edwards finds people grieving in her long-time community are seeking her out.

‘It has changed how I practise,’ she said.’ ‘You’re taught not to bring too much of yourself into the consultation, to keep your distance, be professional, as it’s not about you.

‘In a little community, it’s almost impossible to do that. Patients want that sense of connection – especially when they already know your story and you can’t duck away from it.’

Dr Edwards will share parts of her grief with patients to help normalise their own experiences.

‘You almost need to do this in smaller communities, but it might not be appropriate in an urban setting,’ she said. ‘There is power in a shared understanding.

‘Often people want to talk because they know I have that lived experience. Not to acknowledge that would be counterproductive.

‘We’re humans, we like to know we’re not alone. We can be reassuring, to let patients they’re not going mad – that this is a normal response.

‘It can be powerful to hear that from someone who lived it.’

Complete Article HERE!

A 97-Year-Old Philosopher Ponders Life and Death: ‘What Is the Point?’

In his 1996 book about death, Herbert Fingarette argued that fearing one’s own demise was irrational. When you die, he wrote, “there is nothing.” Why should we fear the absence of being when we won’t be there ourselves to suffer it?

Twenty years later, facing his own mortality, the philosopher realized that he’d been wrong. Death began to frighten him, and he couldn’t think himself out of it. Fingarette, who for 40 years taught philosophy at the University of California at Santa Barbara, had also written extensively on self-deception. Now, at 97, he wondered whether he’d been deceiving himself about the meaning of life and death.

“It haunts me, the idea of dying soon, whether there’s a good reason or not,” he says in Andrew Hasse’s short documentary Being 97. “I walk around often and ask myself, ‘What is the point of it all?’ There must be something I’m missing. I wish I knew.”

Hasse, Fingarette’s grandson, turned the camera on the philosopher in the last months of his life. The two were very close—when Hasse was a child, Fingarette would invent stories and record them on tape to send to his grandson, who lived 300 miles away, so that he could listen to them before bed. “My grandfather was one of the most thoughtful men I’ve ever met,” Hasse told me.

Being 97 is a poignant film that explores the interiority of senescence and the struggle of accepting the inevitable. Hasse quietly observes the things that have come to define his grandfather’s existence: the stillness of time, the loss of ability, and the need to come to terms with asking for help. “It’s very difficult for people who have not reached a state of old age to understand the psychology of it, what is going on in a person,” Fingarette says.

In one scene, Fingarette listens to a string quartet that was once meaningful to his late wife. He hasn’t heard the piece since her death seven years earlier—“her absence is a presence,” he says in the film—and becomes overwhelmed with grief.

Hasse made the artistic choice to omit his voice from the film, so while he was filming the scene, he had to stifle the urge to comfort his grandfather. “It’s very difficult to watch anyone in that kind of pain and not be able to console them, especially someone you love so dearly,” Hasse said. “I found myself sitting just a few feet away from him, unable to reach out because there was a camera between us. All I wanted to do was put a hand on his shoulder, embrace him, be with him in his pain.” After what felt to Hasse like an eternity, the filmmaker handed his grandfather a tissue to wipe away his tears. The scene ends just before this happens.

Fingarette died in late 2018. Just weeks earlier, Hasse had shown him the final cut of the documentary. “I think it helped give him perspective on what he was going through,” he said. “He loved talking about what a mysterious process it had been to film all these little moments of his life and then weave them together into a work that expressed something essential about him.”

The day before he died, Fingarette uttered his final words. After spending many hours in silence with his eyes closed, Hasse said, his grandfather suddenly looked up and said, “Well, that’s clear enough!” A few hours later he said, “Why don’t we see if we can go up and check it out?”

“Of course, these cryptic messages are up to interpretation,” Hasse said, “but I’d like to believe that he might have seen at least a glimpse of something beyond death.”

In the film, Fingarette admits that there “isn’t any good answer” to the “foolish question” of understanding mortality. “The answer might be … the silent answer.”